Cambridgeshire police are backing a national campaign warning people against the dangers of falling victim to fraud in the run-up to Christmas - especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The campaign is in light of national figures, which show that individuals and businesses reported losing £16,426,989 to online fraudsters through online shopping and auction fraud. This represents a 42 per cent increase in total financial loss compared with the 2013 festive period where £9,522,491 was lost.

The report, put together by Action Fraud, shows that the most common time for victims to make contact with fraudsters is Black Friday and December 1 - Cyber Monday as people go online to try and bag the best festive bargains.

Consumers are urged to be extra vigilant on these key Christmas shopping days as online fraudsters could be watching and waiting to capitalise on the biggest shopping frenzies of the year.

Last minute shoppers picking up gifts between December 20 and 23 also said they were stung by fraudsters.

The most common item being bought and sold by victims and fraudsters were mobile phones. People reported trying to get good deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, but what they thought was going to be a bargain never actually arrived leaving them without presents to give on Christmas day. Others reported being defrauded whilst trying to buy footwear, clothing, watches, gaming consoles, computers, furniture and home electricals.

The campaign, called Don't get conned this Christmas has been launched by the City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online. It focuses on staying safe whilst shopping online during the festive period.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Cambridgeshire police have issued the following advice.

* Remember that paying by credit card offers greater protection against fraud than with other methods.

• Double check all details of your payment before confirming.

• Before entering payment details on a website, ensure that the link is secure, in three ways:

• There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself ... this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.

• The web address should begin with 'https://'. The 's' stands for 'secure'.

• If using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green.

• When making a payment to an individual use a secure payment site such as PayPal – never transfer the money directly into their bank account.

• Check the website's privacy policy.

• Always log out of sites into which you have logged in or registered details. Simply closing your browser is not enough to ensure privacy.

• Keep receipts – electronic or otherwise.

• Check credit card and bank statements carefully after payment to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction.

• Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online.